Party Autonomy and Choice of Law: Is International Arbitration Leading the Way or Marching to the Beat of its Own Drummer?
University of New Brunswick Law Journal, 2010
27 Pages Posted: 23 Nov 2009 Last revised: 9 Dec 2013
Date Written: November 19, 2009
National courts have restricted party autonomy in choice of law in a variety of ways. In international arbitration, on the other hand, the march of party autonomy has been unhindered. National courts have abetted this process in the international arbitration context, even as they have maintained restrictions on party autonomy in choice of law within their own legal systems. This phenomenon, combined with the gradual loosening of restrictions on party autonomy in national legal systems, has led some to claim that international arbitration is leading the nations of the world into a global choice of law regime in which party autonomy reigns. Such triumphalists look forward to the day when party autonomy is as unrestricted in national courts as it is in arbitration.
This article argues that such a day is unlikely to arrive. The different pressures and interests that shape national court litigation on the one hand, and international arbitration on the other, are likely to generate different levels of support for party autonomy in choice of law. As a result, regardless of whether more party autonomy in choice of law is preferable in all contexts, or whether it ought to have a wider scope in arbitration than in litigation, arbitrators are likely to maintain greater deference to party autonomy than will national legislatures or courts.
Note: This paper represents an early version of some concepts and arguments that I develop better and in more depth in my book, The Culture of International Arbitration and the Evolution of Contract Law (Oxford University Press, 2013).
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